Punctuation. Custom Essay Writing 



Most of you are not to blame for your pathetic punctuation skills. They are not your fault. You are all victims of society's neglect. The people I blame for most of the horrors I have to correct at the college level are not the few underpaid and overworked saints but the incompetent high school English teachers. Maybe they are not to blame either. Maybe they are the victims of some larger social trends that downplay the teaching of grammar in favor of empowerment and self-esteem. I treasure a memo passed around my department some years back in which we were encouraged to grade in blue or green instead of red because red was such an angry color. A friend of mine who has since left the profession was not allowed to teach grammar in his Fairfax, Virginia, high school English classes. Grammar, he was told, is organic; the students learn it by osmosis while reading great literature. When osmosis failed to take, he tried setting up an extracurricular grammar program outside of class for those who needed help. The superintendent of schools, no less, made him stop.

So when students tell me they had always been taught to use "who" when the subject is singular and "whom" when it is plural, I believe them. They are shocked, even angered, to be told that "alot" is not one word or that the use of "myself" when an objective "me" is perfectly okay makes them look like a complete fop. As one critic put it, "'Myself is the refuge for idiots who were taught early that 'me' is a dirty word." The same idiots were taught by this same teacher that it is always more polite to say "I." It is not. Nor should a comma be placed every time you take a breath. I swear some of the students who hand in papers to me must be dying of asthma. But whether you are dying of asthma or the innocent victim of high school English teachers without a clue, someone must step into the chain of cause and effect at some point and fix the fault. Even if your crimes are not your "fault," they are your responsibility. Get it right.


The comma is a little cur that causes more problems than it should. Some basic rules help govern the use of the comma; once learned, these rules will work 90 percent of the time. The most common comma error has to do with the use of the comma to separate two parts of a sentence. Recall the basics: A sentence must have both a subject and a verb; sometimes it has an object as well. If you have two such sentences connected by a conjunction like "and," then you must put in a comma before the connecting "and." Other such conjunctions include "but," "for," "yet," and "nor." If either of the sentences could not stand alone without the support of the other, then you do not put in the comma. For instance:

Mary kicked her boyfriend and then shot his dog.

In this sentence, "and then shot his dog" cannot stand alone as a sentence because it has no subject. The phrase depends upon the subject of the first sentence, Mary. Hence, no comma is put before "and."

Compare this example: Mary kicked her boyfriend, and then she shot his dog.

The sentence "then she shot his dog" can stand alone. Hence, a comma is required before the "and."

In a more complicated sentence, you may have to stop and think to figure out if it has a subject. But that is the point: The writer must do that work so the reader will not have to. Anytime a reader is forced to reread a sentence to figure it out, the writer is doing a bad job. Consider this sentence:

Mary shot her boyfriend and his dog bit her.

If a comma isn't placed before "and," a reader would at first read the sentence to say that Mary shot her boyfriend and his dog. Then the reader would realize something was wrong and have to back up and read it again right. The writer has the responsibility to keep the reader informed by using correct punctuation as road signs to guide the reader.


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